Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Why Johnny Depp Thought He Was Going To Be Fired From Sleepy Hollow

The 1990s birthed one of the most notable director-actor relationships in recent memory with the eccentric duo of director Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp. But even after their two notable collaborations with "Edward Scissorhands" and "Ed Wood," Depp was unsure if his talents would be utilized for their third go-around in 1999's "Sleepy Hollow." 

In a 2001 interview, the "Pirates of the Caribbean" star mentioned that while his experiences with Burton have been largely positive over the years, the actor was not confident that his performance as Ichabod Crane in the Oscar-winning gothic horror would go over well. "Working with Tim is always great," he said. "But I'll tell you something—on 'Sleepy Hollow' I was 100 percent convinced that I was gonna get fired within the first three weeks. I thought there was no way they were going to let me play the character that way." Based on the 19th-century Washington Irving short story "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," the Burton-directed film adaptation saw Depp portray Crane as a squeamish constable as opposed to the lanky schoolmaster that appears in most versions. 

While unconfident that the studio would buy into his performance, Depp was happy to have producer Scott Rudin on board, who was no stranger to outlandish characters after having worked on the "The Addams Family" duology of the 1990s. As a result, Depp was able to go all out in crafting his depiction of the famous literary character, but not without some key inspiration guiding the way. 

Depp's performance took inspiration from a variety of actors

Johnny Depp was not afraid to think outside of the box for his portrayal of Ichabod Crane in "Sleepy Hollow." And further adding to his peculiar performance was Depp's roster of acting inspirations where each added a unique flavor to his depiction. 

Depp spoke with Spliced Wire during the film's release about his tendency to play roles that required stylized performances, with "Hollow" being no exception. He mentioned the influence that several classic actors brought into his performance, saying, "With 'Sleepy Hollow,' I was (after) the kind of drive that Basil Rathbone had as Sherlock Holmes, but what's going on behind that is total and utter confusion. Basil Rathbone knew exactly what he was talking about ... Ichabod would (seem to) hit it, but he would miss it, in fact." 

Similarly, both Roddy McDowall and Angela Lansbury had an effect on the performance, with the latter's work in 1978's "Death on the Nile" being especially influential.

"With Roddy,...he had this very ethereal quality (I wanted)," Depp explained. "And (with) Angela Lansbury (it was) the energy, the sort of righteousness that she had. I haven't even seen 'Death On the Nile' since I was very young, but she was this force, she was this presence ... It's always dangerous when you try that stuff." 

As odd as his approach might've seemed, it's hard to imagine anyone else bringing quite the uniquely macabre touch to "Sleepy Hollow" than Depp.